Wednesday 17th August 2022

1 CORINTHIANS 11

The ‘Covering Heads in Worship’ debate has gone on for many centuries.  I will not draw any firm conclusions in these notes, except to make some general points from 1 Corinthians 11:

  • There is a play on words between a person’s physical head and their authority-head
  • The principle is about honouring your authority-head by how you conduct yourself in public
  • Christ is the authority-head of man (the husband) and the man is the authority-head of the woman (the wife)
  • Verses 8-10, 14-15 refer back to the created order, and possibly cut through arguments that this is just a temporary cultural prohibition.  Verse 13, however, may support the opposite viewpoint.
  • The Greek words for ‘covering’ imply not something sitting on top of the head – like a hat – but a veil-like item that ‘covers down over’ the head.
  • There is an interesting verse in 11:15 that literally says of the woman: “For long hair is given to her instead of a veil”.  What do you make of that!

The ‘food’ issue resumes when Paul talks about the Lord’s Supper – the breaking of bread as it is called in Acts 2:42.  Holistic Jewish thought meant that the Lord’s Supper was neither just a nice meal shared by Christians, nor was it a separate ritualistic service that was totally ‘spiritual’.  It was the whole thing: eating together and sharing symbolic bread and cups – rather like the Jewish Passover from which Jesus created it.  It was also known as a ‘Love Feast’ (Jude 1:12).  Only a Western, Greek-centric mind needs to know whether it is only physical or only spiritual.  The truth is, it is both!  (Just like baptism is both.)

What is undeniable is that this has power!  It brings back to the present day the miraculous life of the past – in Jesus’s ministry – and of the future – when the world’s New Age comes in power.  Both epochs are focussed into a concentrated ‘laser beam’ of life by the ‘lens’ of this simple activity when done lovingly by God’s faithful people.  Like nuclear power, it can do some tremendous good if it is contained and channelled correctly.  However…

The power also hurts if it is abused: “Some of you are weak, some are sick, and some have died”, says Paul in 11:30.  To participate in the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner, makes you guilty of sinning against the original body and blood of the Crucified One.  Why?  Because you don’t recognise and respect his Body (his people, his church).  In what practical ways? 

  1. Paul mentions ‘Divisions’ amongst the people of God, forming themselves into little ‘sects’ and refusing to mix with those outside them – even within the same church!  And sect members magnify those differences in order to show how superior they are and how much more they are accepted by God.
  2. Greed in individuals, who rush to the front of the queue and dish themselves a huge portion, without checking that there is enough for everyone – and, as a result, some go hungry.  If you suffer from ‘food greed’, then ask God for deliverance and forgiveness, practise regular fasting, and, in the meantime, have a meal at home.
  3. Partaking in a flippant or careless manner, without recognising the living Body of Christ that they are part of.

The severity of the ‘chastisement’ is indicative of how seriously God takes the unity of his gathered people.  Another example of this is the Annanias and Saphira incident.  But even then, we are not talking about God’s people being condemned, but rather brought some fatherly discipline.

The key emphasis, then, is the need for the church members to intentionally agree and unite, making every effort to avoid division and to forge links with all members of their heavenly family.  So let’s treat his power with care and his people with respect, and we will all be fine!

2 CHRONICLES 8 and 9

It is now 24 years into Solomon’s reign and the two gigantic building projects are completed (4 years before the temple was begun + 7 years building the temple + 13 years building Solomon’s palace).  Just as he did at the beginning of Solomon’s reign, the Lord appears again to him and speaks some personal warnings and promises.  Two main criteria were always uppermost in God’s mind: ‘Walk faithfully before me with integrity of heart and uprightness’ and ‘observe all my commands and laws’.  A heart relationship and an obedient lifestyle!  If both these criteria were satisfied, then the result was that Solomon and his heirs would permanently rule over Israel and that the temple would be preserved as a perpetual centre of worship of the Lord.  This was the covenant agreement that God initiated and kept to.

The reverse was true for failure to keep to the requirements of this covenant; the list of consequences was much more detailed – given that God knew in advance that this would be the course of action that Israel would actually choose!  The destruction of the first temple was fulfilled under the Babylonian invasion, when the remaining population of Judah (the Southern Kingdom of the divided nation) was taken into exile.

In order to build the temple and palace, it appeared that more gold was required than originally anticipated and that Solomon gave twenty Galilean towns as collateral to Hiram, King of Tyre who had supplied the gold.  See 1 Kings 9:11-14 and 2 Chronicles 8:2,18.  The latter passage indicates that Solomon and Hiram had some kind of joint venture trading agreement and that later on much more gold was acquired by Solomon – this enabled him to remove the ‘mortgage’ on those twenty towns (which Hiram didn’t think much of in any case) and bring them back under Israelite rule.

Some descendants of the original inhabitants of the Land of Canaan were still alive at that time – in violation of God’s command that they be destroyed – and Solomon instead chose to use them as unpaid slave labour.  There is no criticism of this course of action in either Kings or Chronicles, however.  Pharaoh, King of Egypt, captured the city of Gezer, which the Ephraimites had never been able to conquer, and gave it to Solomon as a wedding dowry for his daughter, whom Solomon subsequently married.  In 2 Chronicles 8:11 it also mentions that one of the reasons that an additional palace was built for her was that, as a non-Israelite, it would not have been right for her to live in a place where the Ark had been housed.

Finally, Chronicles notes that Solomon was very diligent in observing all the seasonal sacrifices commanded by Moses, and in establishing the orders of Levites that David had instituted.  So far, so good!  The land was prosperous and there was peace and order throughout the nation.  As we adhere to the covenant of the Lord, we will always prosper.

One day the queen arrived in Solomon’s court, armed with a lot of tough questions.  To ‘sweeten the pill’ she also brought along camels, spices, gold, precious stones, and many other gifts.  Solomon’s reputation as a man of wisdom and a man of God had spread far and wide – so she came to see for herself.  Sheba was probably an ancient kingdom in southwest Arabia.  It is significant that she praised the wisdom and wealth of the nation, the happiness of the people and officials and, most of all, the Lord for placing Solomon on the throne and giving him that wisdom.  She saw it as evidence of “the Lord’s eternal love for Israel”.  And Solomon showed reciprocal generosity by sending her back with many of his own gifts.

Then we have a large list of Solomon’s income and assets: there is perhaps some significance in the 666 talents of gold per year (about 23 metric tonnes).  The 666 is found in the Book of Revelation as the ‘Number of the Beast’ (Rev 13:18); in ancient times, the letters of the alphabet served as numbers and these kinds of riddles were common.  Seven, being the number of ‘perfection’, means that 666 is a continual falling short of perfection at every point.  Solomon, presiding over a kingdom that was the very pinnacle of the Israelite empire was still an imperfect king over an imperfect system.  So much was made of gold that it was hardly noticed in the end and, as for silver, you didn’t even stoop down to pick it up in the street!  By God’s grace, Solomon became the richest and wisest king in history.

Unfortunately, he disobeyed the Lord in at least two respects: he accumulated large numbers of horses and chariots, as a defence – rather than relying on the Lord (see Deuteronomy 17:16) – and he developed a taste for foreign women and thereby accumulated a large number of wives.  Many of these were from forbidden people groups and they duly led Solomon astray, turning his heart away from the Lord as he got older.  The great king of Israel started to include Ashtoreth and Molech in his worship – mixing that with worship of the Lord.  So God became angry and followed through on his threat to tear away the kingdom from David’s line – but not until the next generation.

Consequently, the Lord raised up three individuals who became thorns in Solomon’s side: Hadad the Edomite, Rezon son of Eliada, and Jeroboam son of Nebat.  The ten tribes of what became the Northern Kingdom would be taken away from the remaining nation of Judah and Benjamin – leaving just those two parts of a previously great united nation.  And the Lord even promised to build a dynasty of comparable size around Jeroboam of the Northern Kingdom.

The chapter ends with Solomon’s death – almost an afterthought.  He was succeeded by Rehoboam, his son.

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